Popular culture attributes attraction and affection solely to our right emotional/creative brain hemisphere. We usually gauge attraction through our instincts or primitive drives. When we like someone, it is not unusual not to be able to completely pinpoint what we like about them.
Emotion is only one side of love’s coin, to have a lasting, healthy, and happy relationship you need the approval and participation of both sides of your brain. You can’t have real love unless your logic and your emotions have both green lit your prospective partner.
Let’s begin by understanding how both sides operate when we’re in love. Dr. Harville Hendrix, an experienced couples therapist who developed Imago therapy with his wife, calls the emotional aspect of love the unconscious partnership. He states that our emotional and survival sections of our brains unconsciously create an image (or Imago in Latin) of the type of person we’re attracted to.
This image is formed in our childhood and it’s based on the characteristics (both positive and negative) of our primary caretakers. We will be initially attracted, all Freudian connotations aside, to people who represent the best aspects of our caretakers and the negative aspects of our caretakers who wounded us in the past. This is how the myth/joke was formed around “marrying our mother or father”. Paradoxically, our unconscious hemisphere constantly tries to stir us towards healing by finding partners who are similar to those that wounded us. We do that with the unconscious wish that we could have a chance to resolve the unfinished business of our childhood.
Left unchecked, the emotional aspect of Love could wreak havoc on our lives. Anyone who had the misfortune of neglect or abuse would gravitate towards negative and dangerous individuals until they heal past wounds that will set them free from this kind of interference from their past.
Here’s where our frontal cortex or rational side comes into play. Our logical hemisphere should examine our relationships and make sure that by involving our rational side into our love, we begin (as Hendrix calls it) to have a conscious partnership. To achieve this, we need to understand our psychological make up and our partner’s make up. In this way we can be present in our relationship and free our self from the shackles of the past.
Each side is vital to Love, they cannot replace the other. Our rational hemisphere cannot create attraction to someone with logical argument and our wounded emotional hemisphere is incapable of discerning the negative traits of our partner because all it sees is an opportunity to heal the wounds produced by our childhood caretakers.
Love’s magic is a sum greater than logic and emotion combined.
For more info on Imago theory read “Getting the love you want” by Harville Hendrix and Helen Lakelly Hunt .
– by Gui Mansilla
Gui is a Coach, Psychotherapist and Director of Breakthrough Center in Toronto.
Breakthrough Center delivers Psychotherapy and Coaching services to Individuals, Families and Groups. We support clients in creating strong personal foundations to experience a lifetime of positive change and growth.
– Edited by Edgar Valderrama Medina